Hibbitt & Barnes Family History


Henry James WEAVER (1882 - 1916)

(Note: In addition to this biography, an article about Henry James Weaver which first appeared in the September 2013 issue of the Discover Your History magazine entitled 'In Search of Henry', is available for download in the Shop.)

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Henry James WEAVER, known as Harry, was the second son and fifth of six children of William Henry WEAVER (a shoemaker) and Jane nee ARNOLD. He was born on 3rd October 1882 in Curry Rivel, Somerset, and his story is one of love and tragedy.

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Henry James Weaver
Henry James
Weaver

In 1891, 8 year old Henry was living with his family in Curry Rivel and was, at that time, attending school. Those living in the household were…

Henry Weaver 42 [actually William Henry Weaver]
Jane Weaver 44 
Richard A Weaver 16 
Mary A Weaver 12 
Henry J Weaver 8 
Rita F Weaver 2


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By the time Henry had reached the age of 18, he had begun working as a mason’s labourer and in 1901 he was lodging with a family by the name of Durham at 27 Melbourne Road, Bristol.

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In 1911, we find Henry once again, living in Curry Rivel with his parents in a 3 roomed cottage (including the kitchen) at Water Street. All his siblings had flown the nest but 28 year old Henry remained unmarried and was still occupied as a mason’s labourer.

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Henry must have been an able marksman for in February 1914, he was awarded a silver spoon which bears the following inscription…

N. Cadbury.
Miniature Rifle Club.
-1914-
February - H. Weaver.
Monthly Spoon.

The silver spoon which was awarded to Henry James Weaver
The silver spoon which was awarded to Henry James Weaver

View the inscription on the spoon in the Gallery.

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In December 1915, Henry married Florence SMALE. She had been born and brought up in Tavistock in Devon, but it is believed the couple met in Curry Rivel when Florence was working there in service. The details, which appear on their marriage certificate, are as follows…

1915 Marriage solemnized at St Andrew's Church in the Parish of Curry Rivel in the County of Somerset
Date: December 12th 1915
Groom: Henry James Weaver, Age: 33, Bachelor, Labourer
Bride: Florence Smale, Age: 27, Spinster,
Residence: Curry Rivel (both)
Groom's Father: Harry Weaver [actually William Henry Weaver], Shoemaker
Bride's Father: William Henry Smale, Groom
Married in the Parish Church according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church of England after banns by me, George W Saunders
This Marriage was solemnized between us, Henry James Weaver, Florence Smale
in the Presence of us, Frank Payne, Richard A Weaver
I, George William Saunders, Vicar of Curry Rivel in the County of Somerset do hereby Certify that this is a true Copy of the Entry No. 43 in the Marriage Register Books of the said Parish Church and that such Register Books are legally in my custody
Witness my hand, this Twelth day of December 1915 
George W Saunders

…Richard A Weaver, one of the witnesses at the wedding, was most likely Henry’s elder brother.

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Florence became pregnant soon after their marriage and a few months later, Henry was called up to serve in The Great War. He enlisted at Weymouth and carried out his training on Salisbury Plain.

On 16th August 1916, Henry made a will and soon afterwards, he headed off to France with the army, but not before visiting his heavily pregnant wife for a brief weekend. The reunion may well have taken place in Tavistock, as around that time Florence was living at her parents’ house, presumably awaiting the birth of their child.

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Henry appears to have written home regularly and three of his letters to Florence survive to this day [spelling, punctuation and underlining are as Henry wrote them]

Letter 1 (undated but probably written in mid-August 1916)

4732. B. Company 3/1 Bucks
No. 6 Camp Windmill Hill
Ludgershall

My Own Dear Loving Wife xxxx
I now feel that I must write you a few more lines before I leave here for France, but I do hope I shall have your letter before I go, but if I have to go on Thursday I am afraid I shall be gone before your letter gets here, Oh My Duckie x I do hope you wont worry about it but I can tell you I am not in the best of spirits just at present, but I hope please God I shall come back to you safe & sound, I am going to put my trust in God my maker & ask him to Bless you & me & bring us both together again, I do hope the war will soon be over, then I dont care when all the Blood-shed is finished, you will pray for me wont you Dear-heart, & I will write to you as often as I can when I get to France, & I do hope I shall get your letters alright, if I dont I really dont know how I shall feel, I have had a nice parcel of Cakes from Rita & a large packet of Cigarettes from Frank, I will send you on the letter I had in the parcel. My Dearest Wife x, I have been issued out with some bandages if I should get wounded, what they call first aid field dressing, but I hope I shall never want to use it, I want you to Cheer up My Darling & look on the bright side, that is what I am going to do, for if I worry I shall make myself ill & all the worry in the world wont get me out of it, so we must both make the best of it, I hope Lovie Dear we shall have a pleasant voyage across the Channel, I do hope I shant be Sea-sick, My Precious Dearest Wife,x I have had a letter from home, I had it on Monday, I will send it on to you, Dad said he would write to you one day this week, they are both quite well I have written to them to say I am off to France this week, I only wish I was coming home to you, but Oh Dearie what a meeting it will be if I am spared to come home safe to you after the war is over, My Dear Baby will be quite big by that time, I hope you will get on alright when Baby is born, I shall never forget our parting on Sunday last, & if I knew then I was going to France this week our parting would have been much worse, really My Darling I did not know till Monday morning, but I knew I should soon have to go, & now Dearie my time is come, you must not write to me again Dear One till you have a letter from me in France, I have had 3 new pairs of socks to take away, we have got to take such a lot of things with us, we shall have such a load to carry, My Lovie Dear, I hope your Dear ankle is no worse, be sure & look after yourself for my sake & Cheer up wont you, be sure & give

[subsequent pages are missing]

The first page of Henry Weaver's letter to his wife
The first page of Henry Weaver's letter to his wife

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Letter 2

Pte H. Weaver
4732
2/1 Bucks Batt
55. I.B.D.
Rouen
B.E.F.
France

Friday
August 25th
_________

My Dearest Wife,
I am now writing you a few more lines with pleasure which I hope will find you quite well & happy, as I am glad to say I am in the very best of health & going on alright at present, I may say I have not yet had a letter from you, but I am hoping to hear from you soon, I hope you had my letter and P.C. quite safe, I am sure you will write to me as often as I write to you. Well My Dear, your time is drawing very near now isnt it, I do hope you will have a good time, I should like to be home when it comes off, never mind Dear Cheer up & look on the bright side, I hope the war will soon end so that we can all return to our homes again, what sort of weather are you having in England, it is very hot here in France & the roads are so dusty, we see plenty of Soldiers here & they call the Germans Frits, a new name for them, I may tell you Dear I am still at the base in Rouen, this is a large Town, & I fancy the French people are so funny, we are going through a weeks training here at the base, so I am sure we shall soon be going up in the trenches which is many miles from here, they say it is a 2 days journey, I hope please God we shall all come back safe, I can tell you Dear Wife we are all in the best of spirits & hoping for the best, I may say the money here is strange to me, for an English shilling is worth 1/2, I dare say I shall get used to it if I am here long enough. Now my Dear, please give my Love to Mother & Dad also Edie & Jack, and I hope they are all quite well, I often think I was lucky to get that last weekend to come to see you before I left England. Now Dearie, you will see I am in the 2/1 Bucks Batt now so when you write to me again, put the address at I have done on the 1st page of my letter, I have wrote home to my Mother & Dad so I am hoping to hear from them soon, it will seem good to have a few letters from home, as I am many miles away from you at present, a lot of my Chums have gone up in the firing line, & I dare say by the time you get this letter I shall be up there too, I am out here to do my bit & I mean to do it, for the Germans must be beaten, I have got my Rifle & Bayonet, & I hope to help beat those Germans. Now My Dearest Wife, I think this is nearly all I have to say this time hoping for your letter soon, so I will now close with all my Love to you, hoping you are in the best of health, so I will say Good-bye for the present, so I remain Your Ever Loving & Devoted Husband Harry

xxxxxxxxxxxx
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My Dear, when you write to me again, would you kindly send me on an addressed envelope in ink, as I have only pencil, it would be a good plan to send me on an envelope each time you write to me as I have only a few left, have you heard from My Parents yet, let me know when you write, Cheer up Dearie & keep smiling like we do, I feel sure I shall come back safe to you one day, I have been here just a week now, now Dear Ta Ta for the present & May God Bless You & keep you safe

xxxxxx
__________

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Letter 3

Sunday Sep 3rd
1916
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My Dearest Wife,
I am now taking the pleasure of writing you a few more lines which I hope will find you quite well, as I am pleased to say I am in the best of health at present, I may say I have only had one letter from you since I have been in France but I am expecting one every day, I hope you get my letters quite safe.
Now My Dear I must tell you I have been in the Trenches, but of course I must not tell you where I am, but as long as you know I am quite well that is really good news for you, I have had a nice letter from Mother & Dad & they are both quite well, what sort of weather are you having in England we have had a lot of rain here, but it is finer again now, I have come across a lot of my Chums who were with me on Salisbury Plain, & it did seem good to see them, I may tell you My Dear we are out of the Trenches for 8 days rest, then we shall have to go back again, all I hope is that I shall be able to come home to you again safe & sound, I am looking on the bright side & hoping for the best, so Cheer up My Dear & let us hope for better days to come, we shall all be very glad when this terrible war is over, it looks brighter for us now Roumania has joined in on our side & now I think Greece will soon come in. Now My Dearest Wife, I am very anxious to know how you are feeling, as your time is drawing very near now, all I hope is that you will have a good time and get on alright, I have you in my thoughts night & day, for I know this is a very anxious time for you, & you know too well how much I Love and care for you, Now Dearie, you must notice my new address, & you will see I am in the 2nd Bucks Batt I will write my address at the bottom of this page. Now My Dear I think this is all I have to say this time, but please give my Love to Mother & Dad, also Edie & Jack, hoping they are all quite well, I will try my best to write to you once a week, of course there are times when I cant find the time. My Dear Wife, I will now close with all my Love to you & write again soon, so I remain your ever Loving & Devoted Husband Harry

xxxxxxxxxxxx
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This is my new address
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Pte H. Weaver, 4732
14. Platoon, D. Company
2nd Bucks Battallion
B.E.F.
France
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Ta Ta My Dear for the present & Cheer up
_______________

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Poignantly, Henry never did come back 'safe & sound' for on the 8th September, less than a week after he wrote the third letter, he was tragically killed. The story handed down through the family is that, during the rest period back at the base, a bomb or hand grenade was accidentally detonated prematurely in a soldier's hand, killing himself and two others, including Henry.

The War Diary for the 2/1 Battalion Oxfordshire and Buckingham Light Infantry seems to bear this out...

LE GRAND PACAUT 

3-7 
09/16 

Nil. 

8/09/16 

At noon a Bombing accident occurred, owing to the premature explosion of a Bomb. The Battn. Q.M. – LIEUT. D WALLER and the Bombing Officer 2/Lieut. A.J. SMEE 3rd WILTS, attached 2/1 BUCKS Bn. were both wounded. Three other Ranks were killed and 4 other Ranks were wounded. 

9. – 10. 
/09/16 

Nil.

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The family received a note, written by J M (or J R) Foster, advising them of Henry’s death. The note was written in pencil in what appears to be a hurried fashion and was possibly sent from France…

Dear Mrs Weaver
I regret to inform you that your Husband was killed last week
Burried in a peacefull spot were the other comerads lie and a cross will be vouched to his memory and his grave will be well cared for and may God bless and comfort you
Yours truly J M (or J R) Foster

The note sent to Henry Weaver's family advising them of his death
The note sent to Henry Weaver's family advising them of his death

...It is believed the note arrived around the time that Florence gave birth to a baby daughter, ten days after Henry’s death. It was said the sad news was not conveyed to Florence until the child was ten days old when Florence was becoming increasingly anxious to know why she had not heard from her husband. She named her baby Phyllis, which apparently was Henry’s favourite girl’s name.

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On 4th October 1916, the Times Newspaper published a notice of Henry's death…

Roll of Honour...
Losses in the Ranks...
ACCIDENTALLY KILLED
OXFORD AND BUCKS L.I. - Litchfield, 2631 J.S.: Mead, 2697 L.-Sgt. W.A.: Weaver, 4732 H.J.

and the following appeared in the Western Times on 5th October 1916...

ROLL OF HONOUR
West-Country Casualties in the Latest Lists...
ACCIDENTALLY KILLED.
Oxford and Bucks L.I. - Weaver. H. J. (Tavistock)...

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Henry's death is also recorded at the General Record Office as follows...

GRO War Death Army Other Ranks (1914 to 1921).
Name: WEAVER, Henry J
Unit: O.B.L.I. Bks.Bn.
Rank: Private
Number: 4732
Year: 1916
Volume: I.54
Page: 156.

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Henry was buried in Merville Communal Cemetery Extension in Merville, France, and some time later, a photograph of his grave was forwarded to the family from the Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries at the War Office...

Director of Graves Registration & Enquiries
Begs to forward as requested a Photograph of the Grave of:-
Name: Weaver
Rank and Initials: Pte H.J.
Regiment: 2/1 Bucks Battn. (Oxf. + Bucks L.I.)
Position of Grave: Merville Communal Cemetery
Nearest Railway Station: Merville
All communications respecting this Photograph should quote the number (8/9321) and be addressed to:-
Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries,
War Office,
Winchester House,
London, S.W
Owing to the circumstances in which the photographic work is carried on, the Director regrets that in some cases only rough Photographs can be obtained.
"COPYRIGHT FULLY RESERVED"

The inscription on the cross in the photograph reads...

IN LOVING MEMORY OF
4732 PTE. H.J. WEAVER 2/1 BUCKS BATT.
ACCIDENTALLY KILLED SEPT. 8 1916.
INTO THY HANDS.

Photograph of the cross which originally marked Henry Weaver's grave
Photograph of the cross which originally marked Henry Weaver's grave

...The newspaper notice and memorial inscription confirm the account that Henry was killed by accident, rather than in combat. In addition, there are three graves lying side by side in Merville Cemetery belonging to Private JS Litchfield, Lance-Sergeant AW Mead and Private HJ Weaver, who all died on 8th September 1916 serving with the 2/1 Bucks Battallion.

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Henry's grave is now in the care of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the details they hold are as follows…

Name: WEAVER 
Initials: H J 
Nationality: United Kingdom 
Rank: Private 
Regiment/Service: Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry 
Unit Text: 2nd/1st Bucks Bn. 
Age: 33 
Date of Death: 08/09/1916 
Service No: 4732 
Additional information: Son of William Henry and Jane Weaver, of Curry Rivel, Taunton; husband of Florence Weaver, of 22, Ford St., Tavistock. 
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead 
Grave/Memorial Reference: I. A. 10. 
Cemetery: MERVILLE COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION.

The headstone, which replaced the original cross, reads…

4732 PRIVATE
H.J. WEAVER
OXFORD & BUCKS. LIGHT INF.
8TH SEPTEMBER 1916
+
IN LOVING MEMORY OF
MY DEAR HUSBAND
FROM HIS SORROWING
WIFE AND CHILD

...More than eighty years passed before a relative visited Henry's graveside when in October 1999, his daughter travelled to France at the age of 83, together with five family members, and a lifelong ambition for Phyllis was at last fulfilled.

Pictures of the grave and cemetery can be viewed in the Gallery.

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Probate was granted through the War Office on 31st January 1917, a copy of which follows…

E/ 247739 / 1. (Accounts 4.)

The following is a true copy of a Will which was executed by the late No. 4732, Private Henry James Weaver, 2nd/1st Buckinghamshire Battalion, Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, while in actual Military Service within the meaning of the Wills Act, 1837, and is therefore recognized as valid by the War Department:-

13
WILL
___________________

In the event of my death I
give the whole of my property
and effects to my Wife, Mrs Florence
Weaver, 22, Ford St, Tavistock,
Devon.
(Signature) Henry James Weaver
Private, No. 4732.
Res Battn 1st Bucks O & B.L.I.

Date, 16th August 1916
____________________

Certified
E Williams [signed]
for the Assistant Financial Secretary.

War Office, S.W.,
31st January 1917

Copy of Henry Weaver's will
Copy of Henry Weaver's will

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Like so many ill-fated families, a Commemorative Scroll and Memorial Plaque (Death Penny) were issued to Henry Weaver's widow and several years later two war medals were sent to Phyllis, her mother having died before Phyllis had reached the age of five.

The British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920, show that Henry won the Victory Medal & British War Medal and these items are now in the possession of Henry’s great-grandson…

Name: Henry J Weaver 
Regiment or Corps: Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry 
Regimental Number: 4732
Medals: Victory, British
Roll: 4106B20
Page: 4010.

Photographs of Henry's memorial plaque and scroll, WWI identity disc and medals are displayed in the Gallery. The memorial plaque can also be viewed here.

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After Florence’s death, a local newspaper included a brief notice in which the circumstances of Henry's death, as understood by the family, were also mentioned…

"…Pathos is added to this very sad case by the fact that Mrs. Weaver's husband, who was a private in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry during the war, was killed by a bomb at the base in France just after leaving the trenches for a brief respite…"

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Henry’s name appears on the War Memorial in his home town of Curry Rivel and also in Tavistock, the home town of his widow.

Pictures of the Tavistock War Memorial can be found in the Gallery.

Photographs of Henry James Weaver can also be viewed in the Gallery by clicking here and here.

 

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